The Federal Aviation Administration created an anonymous complaint system to improve airline safety, but many air traffic controllers have used it instead to carry out petty grievences over conduct and to settle office disputes, a new watchdog reports concludes.
The strength of a federal program designed to improve airline safety is also turning into its weakness: anonymity.
Information from the ATSAP is sent to an Event Review Committee, which provides the FAA with recommendations and direction to resolve safety issues. A number of problems have been fixed using the reporting system, such as fixing some communication problems at a Chicago air traffic facility, the report said.
But the FAA is working to make it easier to track what problems are happening where, making them easier to fix. The agency said it is reviewing the situation, and should have a solution in place by the end of the year.
Because the program is relatively new, the investigation also discovered that managers don’t quite understand what’s allowed under the regulations. Bosses are not allowed to punish their employees due to reports to the ATSAP, but they are allowed to give additional training to employees and discuss with them problem issues to try to clear the mistakes up. Yet the study found that many managers were “under the erroneous impression that once an ATSAP report had been filed, they could no longer discuss the event with employees.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is the federal agency charged with regulating airlines and maintaining air traffic safety.
The Air Traffic Safety Action Program was deployed nationwide in October 2010 by the FAA to allow air traffic controllers to make anonymous complaints designed to improve safety without fear of retaliation.
Inspectors general are the independent watchdogs charged with policing against waste, fraud, abuse and corruption inside federal agencies and programs.